Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
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Owens Corning Reduces Emissions while Increasing Renewable Energy Usage


Owens Corning Reduces Emissions while Increasing Renewable Energy Usage
Owens Corning has a special role. The company earns most of its revenues (over 60 percent) from products that improve energy efficiency in homes and buildings, such as composites, insulation, and roofing. However, the production of these products has also historically resulted in significant greenhouse gas emissions. The company believes that manufacturers have a responsibility to lead the fight against climate change, and has pledged to drastically lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Compared to 2018, the company plans to reduce by half the emissions from its own operations (Scope 1) and the emissions from the electricity it buys (Scope 2).
It also aims to cut by 30 percent the emissions from its value chain (Scope 3) in this decade. The company has made remarkable progress on these targets, achieving a 22 percent reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions since 2018, according to its latest sustainability report. More than half (around 56 percent) of the electricity the company used in 2022 came from renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, solar and geothermal energy.
“These results move the company closer to its goal of a 50 percent reduction in absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 market-based GHG emissions by 2030,” said Owens Corning’s director of sustainability.
“In the areas where there is room to do more, like Scope 3 emissions, we’re making investments in our people and processes to unlock ideas and move in the right direction.”
Owens Corning has set sustainability goals for three generations. Renewable energy and energy efficiency were key to all of those aspirations. And the company has made great strides in translating those into action.
“Our last two sets of goals were designed to really understand how that electricity was generated,” said Childers.
“We built methodology in our databases to better track and drive to renewable sources.” In 2015, the company invested in two large wind farms that now account for almost half of its electricity use in the U.S.
“As we moved into our third-generation goals, we set science-based targets for our greenhouse gas emissions and aligned a renewable electricity goal of 100 percent for the same period,” Childers said. “This is an exciting time for us as we continue down this journey and expand our renewable electricity usage into other countries where we operate.”
Tackling challenges on the path to lower emissions There will always be difficulties to face in any corporate decarbonization journey, of course. For instance, to make more progress on Scope 2 emissions, the company will have to go through a complicated process of switching to renewable sources in all of the global regions where Owens Corning operates.
“When you operate in 31 countries, it certainly adds a layer of complexity,” said Childers. “But that complexity only affects how we get things done. We are united as a company in our mission and our goals.”
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Finding new solutions for reducing emissions beyond renewable electricity sourcing is a challenge for the company. For example, it needs to find alternatives — such as hydrogen and biogas — for glass melting processes that currently rely on fossil fuels. To advance decarbonization in its composites business, Owens Corning joined a collaborative project called H2GLASS with 22 other companies that aims to find ways to use hydrogen instead of natural gas in glass manufacturing.
“The company is also working to lower the global warming potential of the blowing agent blends used to make polystyrene foam for insulation. It’s also pursuing circular innovations within its research and development portfolio to lower emissions from input materials,” said Childers.
He went on to add, “What’s next Owens Corning hopes to have contracts in place covering 100 percent of its global enterprise electricity by 2025 and plans to have those contracts operational by 2030”.
The company entered into a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) in Spain that is expected to start operating in stages throughout 2023 and 2024, producing 223 gigawatt-hours of energy per year.
“This agreement, along with wind-driven VPPAs in Finland and Sweden, means that 100 percent of Owens Corning’s European production sites and science and technology centers will be covered by contracts and VPPAs supplying guarantees of origin enabling renewable electricity,” said Childers.
“As we work to cut our greenhouse gas emissions in half, purchasing electricity only from renewable sources is essential. In addition, we must work to reduce emissions from our processes and improve energy efficiency.”
Owens Corning has carried out more than 1,270 projects to improve energy efficiency in its facilities around the world since 2006, Childers said, resulting in an estimated reduction of more than 1.47 million megawatt-hours per year.
“These projects include upgrading lighting, optimizing pumps, recovering heat, improving insulation and optimizing processes,” said Childers while adding, “In 2022, we carried out 12 projects, generating annual energy savings of over 17,000 megawatt-hours and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 4,400 metric tons per year.”
Childers is confident that Owens Corning will reach most of its targets in lowering greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy.
“I am a part of a company whose commitment to sustainability is deep and unwavering,” she said. “I’m surrounded by a team of mission-driven sustainability professionals who are amongst the best of the best, and our employees are working hard every day to bring our strategy to life and advancing our cause. We’re making meaningful progress toward our 2030 goals.”